Operation ‘Muskan’ fails to make people smile in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Two weeks ago, an 8-year-old girl went missing from Chandpur area in Nayagarh district. Her parents lodged a complaint urging Chandpur Police to take swift action in connection with the incident. Almost 13 days after the incident, police finally managed to trace the girl from Bhubaneswar and also arrested the serial kidnapper Shankar on charges of abducting the girl.

After a probe into the incident, police found that Shankar had abducted the girl after luring her to give money. Based on the statements of the accused, police also found that he used to threaten the kidnapped children and forced them to beg on streets. There are as many as five cases of kidnapping cases against him at different police stations.

While the parents of the girl are fortunate to see their daughter return home, there are hundreds of other unlucky parents who are living in misery after losing their kids.

Amid the ever rising trend of child missing cases in Odisha being a major concern, a new report tabled by the State government claims that over 6500 children have gone missing in the last four years. It has now raised serious questions over the government and its programmes meant for safety and security of children in the State. Not only this, the report stated that despite launch of ambitious search and rescue drives like Operation Smile (Muskan), the State Police has failed to trace more than half of the missing children.

In a reply to a starred question in the Assembly, Women and Child Development Minister Tukuni Sahu informed the House on the shocking trend of child missing cases.
According to the government, in last four years, as many as 6,579 children have gone missing from various parts of the State. In order to curb the vanishing cases of the children and trace the missing kids, the Odisha Police launched ‘Operation Smile’ in January 2015.

However, the operation has failed in tracing and rescuing more than half of the missing children. As per the report of the State government, during the period, police have managed to rescue only 3,303 missing children.

The failure of the State police has not only raised questions on the efficacy of the operation, but also led the experts to suggest for creation of a separate wing for rescue of missing children.

Experts have also blamed the absence of adequate staff in the police department as one of the main reasons behind it.

Social activist Anuradha Mohanty said, “The district level task force should be more proactive in dealing with cases of missing children. Operation Smile and other similar rescue drives are organised once in a while but if they are launched throughout the year, I think it will help us trace more missing children,” she said.

Former Police DG SN Tiwari said, “A separate police wing needs to be established and since we lack manpower, the government should also be more active.”